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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2017 Nov;209(5):1103-1109. doi: 10.2214/AJR.17.18346. Epub 2017 Aug 4.

Changing Musculoskeletal Extremity Imaging Utilization From 1994 Through 2013: A Medicare Beneficiary Perspective.

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1 Department of Radiology, NYU Langone Medical Center, 660 First Ave, New York, NY 10016.
2 Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA.
3 Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute, Reston, VA.



The objective of our study was to assess temporal changes in the utilization of musculoskeletal extremity imaging in Medicare beneficiaries over a recent 20-year period (1994-2013).


Medicare Physician Supplier Procedure Summary Master Files from 1994 through 2013 were used to study changing utilization and utilization rates of the four most common musculoskeletal imaging modalities: radiography, MRI, CT, and ultrasound.


Utilization rates (per 1000 beneficiaries) for all four musculoskeletal extremity imaging modalities increased over time: 43% (from 441.7 to 633.6) for radiography, 615% (5.4-38.6) for MRI, 758% (1.2-10.3) for CT, and 500% (1.8-10.8) for ultrasound. Radiologists were the most common billing specialty group for all modalities throughout the 20-year period, maintaining dominant market shares for MRI and CT (84% and 96% in 2013). In recent years, the second most common billing group was orthopedic surgery for radiography, MRI, and CT and podiatry for ultrasound. The physician office was the most common site of service for radiography, MRI, and ultrasound, whereas the hospital outpatient and inpatient settings were the most common sites for CT.


In the Medicare population, the most common musculoskeletal extremity imaging modalities increased substantially in utilization over the 2-decade period from 1994 through 2013. Throughout that time, radiology remained the most common billing specialty, and the physician office and hospital outpatient settings remained the most common sites of service. These insights may have implications for radiology practice leaders in making decisions regarding capital infrastructure, workforce, and training investments to ensure the provision of optimal imaging services for extremity musculoskeletal care.


MRI; extremity imaging; imaging trends; imaging utilization; musculoskeletal imaging

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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